A media section reported a rift in his professional relationships with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), and noted political strategist Prasant Kishor. Later on, PK called on Bihar CM Nitish Kumar at the latter’s official residence in New Delhi on Feb 19 evening. Kishor’s meeting with Nitish for nearly two hours and having dinner together triggered speculation in the political circles.
Both met for the first time since Nitish, the JN(U) chief, sacked Kishor as the party’s national vice president in Jan 2020, following their differences over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) act.
Responding to media queries in New Delhi on Feb 19, Nitish confirmed having a meeting with Kishor, but he dismissed speculation about any particular agenda.
“Arre bechara Prashant Kishor se koi aaj ka rishta hai. Mulakat ka koi khas matlab nahi hai. Hum logo ka purana sambandh hai (my relationship with Prasant is not new. There is no special agenda behind our meeting. We have an old relationship,” Nitish said.
Contacted over the phone, Kishor told TOI on Saturday, Feb 19, that it was a “purely courtesy” visit, nothing else.
“When Bihar CM was suffering from Covid-19 infection a few weeks back, I had called him to enquire about his health. The CM had then expressed his desire to meet me. Coincidentally, he came to Delhi yesterday, and I was already in the national capital. So, I went to meet him. We know each other for a long time. So, there is nothing special in our meeting,” Kishor said.
Kishor also recalled how he always maintained a good personal relationship with Nitish. “I never used any absurd word for Nitish Ji even after being ousted from the JD (U),” he said.
I also met RJD chief Lalu Prasad when he was admitted at AIIMS-Delhi,” Kishor told TOI.
Asked about speculation in a media section regarding his so-called rift with the TMC, Kishor said there was no need to link our meeting with the Trinamool Congress. “First, media ran stories of a rift between Kishor and Mamata Banerji. Later, stories were run that Kishor had a rift with Abhishek Banarjee. All these stories were rubbish,” he said.
(Left to Right) Prashant Kishor, Mamata Banerjee, Abhishek Banerjee. (Pics: PTI file)
Earlier, the TMC had refuted speculation that there was a distance between Kishor and the party. The TMC had taken to Tweeter to refute such speculations.
TMC Rajya Sabha member Dereck O’Brien while differentiating between his party and Kishor’s I-PAC, had said the party hired the political consultancy agency for five years, and they had specific deliverables to do.
“There is no merit in the hugely speculative and unsubstantiated reporting regarding the difference of opinion or working relationship between the TMC and I-PAC. Under the leadership of Mamata, we work as one team and will continue to collaborate in the future,” the TMC had tweeted.
Kumar, however, played down the meeting, saying their ties are old and not much should be read into the meeting.
Once a close associate of Kumar, Kishor had joined the JD(U) and was appointed it’s vice president by the Bihar chief minister.
Their ties, however, soured, and he publicly criticised Kumar’s support to the ally BJP on the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act and frequently took jibes at him. He was then expelled.
While Kumar remains a BJP ally, Kishor has been a strong critic of the party and has often worked for its rivals in many states, most recently in West Bengal, where he worked with Trinamool Congress president and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The differences between the TMC party high command and I-PAC reached a flashpoint when a list of candidates for the 108 Municipalities was uploaded on the party website without the approval of the Chief Minister.
Reports said they held a closed-door meeting for around two hours.
Interestingly, Kishor has been vocal about his cordial relations with the Bihar chief minister and named him one of the few leaders with whom he would like to work.
Meanwhile, sources close to the chief minister told NDTV that he decided to make his meeting with Kishor public as a message to the BJP, which has, of late, been openly critical of him on a range of issues.
In 2015, Kishor had helped the grand alliance of the JD(U), the Congress, and the RJD to win Bihar Assembly elections, defeating the BJP-led alliance.
Kishor joined the JD(U) in 2018. He was made the party’s vice president before being expelled for making ‘controversial remarks’ which the party found not per its policies.
Kishor had also opposed the party’s stand in various issues, including the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
A section of the media interpreted the “coming together” of Kishor and Kumar to checkmate the BJP, which has left him sore with its indifference to many issues, including caste census and special status for Bihar.
JD (U) sources said that the meeting was held behind ‘closed doors’ with only the two leaders in attendance. The conversation between Kishor and Kumar assumes significance ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections and took place when his future with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress is the subject of fierce speculation.
A senior JD (U) functionary, who wished not to be quoted, said that it is highly probable that the two might have discussed the Third Front. “Prashant Kishore ji has been talking of a Front to counter Congress and the BJP,” he said. Another JD (U) leader said that with Lok Sabha elections two years away, Kishor could be in the scheme of things for the JD (U) as “everything is not that cosy between BJP- and JD (U)”.
Everything is not well between Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Prashant Kishor’s political strategist. The TMC has called off its five-year deal with Prashant Kishor’s team I-PAC according to the rumors.
Lending credit to the speculations, TMC leader Madan Mitra told India Today that Mamata Banerjee had informed party workers that TMC general secretaries Partha Chatterjee and Subrata Bakshi would oversee elections.
“Officially, we have not got a circular saying that I-PAC will not work, but we have been told that Partha Chatterjee and Subrata Bakshi will oversee all the elections,” Madan Mitra said.
Trinamool Congress in West Bengal has initiated discussions to terminate its agreement with poll strategist Prashant Kishor and his advocacy group I-PAC following chaos among a section of the party’s local leaders for being denied ticket in the upcoming municipal elections.
The relationship between the ruling party and the election strategist, hired by the TMC in 2019 following the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha polls, turned sour after the candidates’ list for the civic elections was out on Friday. When party leader Partha Chatterjee announced the list, another candidate list was uploaded on the party’s social media platforms, which is said to be monitored by I-PAC since 2021 – without Mamata Banerjee’s approval.